Project Gjerdeløa

Marianne Heske
3 min
Marianne Heske, «Project Gjerdeløa», 1980–1981
Photo: Annar Bjørgli / Nasjonalmuseet


It’s a summers day in 1980.
High up in the Tafjord mountain range in western Norway, Marianne Heske and others are in the process of dismantling a 400-year-old log cabin shed.
Log by log is dismantled and sent down the steep mountain by cable car, all the way down to the edge of the fjord.
There, everything is piled into Heske's small van and driven to the Paris Biennale.

This is how Project Gjerdeløa started; A year-long process in which a log cabin shed was first moved from Tafjord to the Pompidou Center in Paris, before then moving to the Henie Onstad Art Center outside Oslo, and then finally being transported back to Tafjordfjellet.Tafjord mountains.

In Paris, the shed was part of a two-room installation. The first room was filled with photographs, texts and maps, and showed the structure’s journey from the Norwegian mountains to the metropolis of Paris.
In the other room, the shed stood alone, with a turf roof that smelled like a mountain pasture in summer rain.

There was a great deal of interest in the log cabin shed.
Standing in front of it, you could hear people talking…

Various Actors Voices:
"Look, the heather is alive!"
"But the wood isn't real, is it? Is it just a good imitation?”
"Do you think the house is to scale? Perhaps one to ten? Very interesting!”,
"But the shed can’t be 400 years old! The saw hadn’t been invented then!”

In Paris nobody questioned if Gjerdeløa was art. But when it returned to Norway and was shown at Henie Onstad, the work sparked heated debate.

How could an old log cabin shed be transformed into art?!
One critic even wrote: "What kind of weak-minded environment thinks that this should suddenly be her work of art?"
And many agreed.
Moving a shed was something anyone could do, and if the artist didn’t create the work with their own hands, how could it be art?!

Heske herself called the log cabin "a nationally romantic readymade". But the project was not only about what we define as art.

Heske wanted to challenge the different ways in which it would be perceived in France and Norway. By placing an ancient log cabin in the Pompidou Centre, the work opened the way for reflections on the relationship between center and periphery, between past and present, and between untouched nature and urban culture.